Being Fair Trade Fortnight (from the 3rd – 18th of May) I thought I’d better discuss an issue that arose in the office this morning.
I buy the tea and coffee for the office usually and as a matter of habit, I buy Dilmah. We have always bought Dilmah in my home… from back in Rotorua with my maman, to the flat in Wellington with my sister. I’d read the little leaflet and decided that it was a company worth supporting, as well as highly approving of the taste of the tea.
This morning my boss made mention of the fact that I buy Dilmah tea and said that someone objected. I am not sure whether they objected specifically to us buying it, or objected to the company overall. In any case, I decided to look into it further and found that the company owner had called Fair Trade a “farce” and claimed that it was a “trendy brand” that only served to increase the amount of money in the pockets of the middle men.
The director of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand responded, defending fair trade and saying that it had made significant improvements in the lives of the workers and farmers in developing countries. Of which I have no doubt. And while I am not ready to agree with everything that the wealthy owner of Dilmah has to say about fair trade certification, I’m also not ready to write off the Dilmah company.
I find it conflicting to say that Dilmah is unethical purely for not signing up to the fair trade certification when it looks like the founder (while definitely giantly wealthy now!) has worked really frigging hard to make Dilmah a successful company in terms of making money and of looking after his workers and other beneficiaries of his foundation/charity/NGO. I understand that he may be trying to compete with the fair trade brand, and that is why he isn’t signing up – but it’s the market that drives that sort of stuff and he can hardly be blamed for trying to stay ahead. Mind you, then you could also say that it is alright that the US veto certain Security Council resolutions.
What I would like to see is an annual report or some form of audit. And also to know more details about the conditions of the workers on the Dilmah tea plantations.
It’s so hard this ‘taking a stance’ stuff. I’m not sure I’m cut out for it!
But I do support Fair Trade generally. Yeah. That’s a stance.